Climate protesters march through the streets of Glasgow weeks before the city will host the UN Climate Change Conference
On Friday, 24 September, the voices of approximately 1,000 mask-wearing protesters rang loudly through the streets of Glasgow, as activists of all ages marched from Kelvingrove Park to George Square in support of Fridays for Future’s Global Youth Climate Strike. Their message was clear: “uproot the system” and ensure that COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow this November, delivers meaningful change in addressing the global climate crisis.
To further understand people’s divergent motivations for marching on the streets, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to a wide range of climate protesters. Anabel Shaw, 67, who travelled to the city from the Highlands, told us that she is on the streets because “my heart is with the young people of Glasgow”. Similarly to Anabel, the majority of adults approached by The Glasgow Guardian shared a heartfelt concern for the livelihoods of future generations, as they passionately demanded “system change, not climate change” in unison.
The protest chant’s sentiment was echoed by a member of the Green Anti-Capitalist Front (GAF), who declared that they are marching because “capitalism is the root cause of the climate crisis and any attempt to address ecological breakdown without addressing profit […] is going to fall short.”
Throughout the protest, various organisations advocated for urgent environmental causes, such as the Cambo oil field located northwest of the Shetland Islands. Described by Greenpeace as “embarrassing the government”, the proposed oil field project has been heavily criticized, especially since its carbon footprint would equate to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 18 coal-fired power plants. Monica Lennon, a Labour MSP told The Glasgow Guardian: “We need to stop Cambo, and that’s a message that needs to go to Nicola Sturgeon and to Boris Johnson.”
Attention was also drawn to the intrinsic connections between racial justice and the climate crisis, through protest speeches from a Free Palestine activist and the Stand Up to Racism campaign.
Focusing particularly on the historic significance of COP26 being hosted in Glasgow next month, protesters explicitly demanded that governments and companies be held accountable for the global climate crisis. Speaking to The Glasgow Guardian, Ross Greer, a Green MSP for the West of Scotland said: “We’re going to be judged for centuries as a species on the actions that we take this decade. This is it...and we, I think, have a unique responsibility here in Glasgow - a few weeks out from the world coming here - to be leading that change. Glasgow should be the turning point for the planet.”
Whilst students, activists, and politicians were marching through Woodlands Road and Sauchiehall Street, over 1,400 youth climate strikes were taking place in 6 continents around the world. Marching in the streets of Glasgow, it quickly became evident that the international solidarity of the movement promotes a powerful sense of unity and hope.
Nevertheless, for some protesters, the crowd’s optimism was dampened by the bleak reality of climate politics, as expressed by Sorrel Humphrey, Co-President of Glasgow University’s Sustainable Students. The 20-year-old said: “It makes me feel really proud of all of us, but it also makes me so angry that we’re not being listened to.”
As the protest drew to a close, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Fridays for Future Glasgow co-organisers Anna Brown, Dylan Hamilton, and Saoi O'Connor, who have been planning the march since July. After months of liaising with police, contacting speakers, and confirming march routes with Glasgow City Council, Saoi, 18, proudly refers to the team’s hard work as “a labour of love”. According to them, Friday’s protest truly was a glimpse of what’s yet to come during COP26. Throughout the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Fridays for Future Glasgow is aiming to encourage climate activism by highlighting the environmental threats faced by the world’s most marginalized communities. A major climate strike is scheduled to take place in Glasgow on Friday 5 November, with prominent Swedish activist Greta Thunberg likely to attend.
From the elderly man who was striking for the future of his 14 grandchildren to the 8-year-old Aila who was protesting with her mum and little brother “to make it better for sea animals”, the Global Youth Climate Strike embodied the diversity of Glasgow’s environmental activism. As Green MSP Ross Greer expressed in his closing remarks, now is the time to “fight like hell”.
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